Tag Archives: Writers Block

#amwriting: when writing becomes work

The Rainy Day, Gustave Caillebotte

Winter is approaching, here in the great Northwest.  It’s still warm now, but soon we will enjoy endless days of rainy grey darkness interspersed with brief moments of frozen hysteria. Yes, we who live in the rural parts of the Northwest dread those clear, cold nights when, just before dawn, the temperature hovers at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and a fine glaze of ice encases the county roads, keeping things interesting.

In my part of the Northwest, the months of November through March are famous for the phenomenon known as Black Ice. The drive to the freeway is a white-knuckle experience: tightly controlled panic interspersed with moments of sheer terror. But I rarely have to drive in it, so it’s mostly my husband who gets the adrenaline rush of having survived yet another commute.

The dark days are sometimes depressing. I force myself to write, because to go a day without writing is to let the demons win. And even though I am not as inspired as I wish I was at this moment, I am getting the nuts and bolts out of the way, doing work that needs to be done, but isn’t that fun.

  • Plotting
  • Developing the theme.
  • Getting to know the characters.
  • Building the world.
  • Designing the magic system.

My boots sit damply near the door, and the umbrella rests near them. Soon the retention-pond in the front yard will be full, and puddles will dot the landscape.  I will walk the neighborhood, swathed in fleece and Gortex, dry and warm in the midst of side-ways rain storms, but not because I want to.  I will do it because its “good for me.”

I will walk and consider my work in progress. Am I remaining faithful to my theme? How can I show the disintegration of a relationship without resorting to the same arguments and spats that are the cliché tropes of badly crafted romance novels? I decide that what I need to do is continue crafting the allegories, and build the layers of tension.

And once I have brainstormed my block into submission, I will stop in at the diner, order a coffee, and pull out my android tablet. I will write for an hour putting those thoughts together. It will be a productive hour, just because I have walked in the fresh air, and changed my writing environment.

Everyone suffers from stalled creativity. For me, the only solution is to force my way through it. Once I have a hole punched through the wall, new ideas crystallize and I am fired with the knowledge of what has to be done next.

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Death Valley

Extreme-Heat-Death-ValleyEvery artist who has successfully created works other people enjoyed is a slave to the creative muse. Each artist endures those horrible moments when they question their choice of career–they have a series of bad days and inspiration is far from their grasp. Every note they play, every word they write, every picture painted is dead and dull. Forcing it doesn’t help, and indeed drives it further away.  These are the moments when we are walking in the Death Valley of creativity.

I have no magic bullet, no super-human powers of creativity to bestow upon you.  For me, the joy of creativity in music, art, and writing is the rebellious feeling of stealing the time to do it. I make music, I do graphics, and I write, doing each whenever the muse strikes me.

In the old days I would come home from work with a small notebook full of ideas and after I had fed the masses, everything else would fall by the way while I put those ideas to paper. Even when you must earn a living, creativity must be allowed to flow when you feel it, because it is a finite commodity.

But I will tell you this: You Are Not Alone. Margaret Mitchell only published one book: Gone With The Wind.

gone with the wind 2Quoted from the fount of all knowledge,  WikipediaMargaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author and journalist. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone with the Wind, for which she won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936[1] and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. In more recent years, a collection of Mitchell’s girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost Laysen, have been published. A collection of articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form.

And did you know that Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde each only wrote one novel in their careers?  I am assuming this was because they suffered from long periods of having nothing they thought was worthy to show the world.

Poe understood the value of writing the short story. While he is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre, his body of work consisted of–wait–how many short stories did he write? “Almost eighty” it says on page 373 of the official volume of the Big Read. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore says the number is sixty-nine – counting “both short fiction and novels.” This appears to be the most widely published number.
So how many short stories did Edgar Allan write? By all reports he was a troubled man, and it’s possible that not even he knew for sure.

Poe is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Are we surprised? I don’t think so.

narrative of arthur gordon pym edgar allen poeBut though he is considered by many to be the most famous of our American authors, he only published one novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by our famous man, Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall the protagonist, Pym, including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is rescued by the crew of the Jane Guy.

Indie author Mary W. Walters has written a wonderful blogpost on the subject of turning writers block into building blocks, available here.

So even if you feel the stream of creativity has run dry, it’s frustrating, yes–but nothing to get to worried about. At some point, when it is least convenient, that muse will strike again. You will once again feel that divine energy, that spark of madness that is the breath of life for a poem, a song, a novel or a painting. When you feel it, go with it.

 

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Ode to Writer’s Block

Ode to Writers Block 

What beauty is this, that lies sleeping near my heart?

‘Tis word—and word should tumble from my pen,

Not lie locked within the chamber dark and inky.

Where hides the key to free thee from thy prison?

Oh, lovely word, spring forth from the trap that is my mind,

Set thee down upon this paper, word.

Let me hold thee, and from thee let me form the dreams,

The hopes and fantasies that fill my eyes and blind me to all but thee,

Oh word! Fill my paper with thy bounteous delight,

As you fill my head with longing,  and my wastebasket with scrap.

©2014 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

Arts and the Muses by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1884-1889

Arts and the Muses by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1884-1889

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